Volcanoes of Indonesia: Part 1 – Anak Krakatau and Borobudur

» Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Featured, Indonesia

Four months ago, I went to Indonesia to photograph some of the most spectacular volcanoes on the planet. Indonesia has over 150 volcanoes and 127 of those were active (in 2012). My plan was to visit only five on the island of Java; they were Ana Krakatau, Merapi, Bromo, Semeru and Kawah-Ijen. In this first part, I will focus on the first couple days and the visit of Anak Krakatau and the temple of Borobudur.

Indonesia is composed of 17,500 islands, the biggest islands are Sumatra, Celebes and Java. The island the most known  is probably Bali. In this trip we spent 14 days on Java and only 3 on Bali. Indonesian volcanoes erupt regularly (as Mount Kelud did a couple of days ago). I had no experience climbing active volcanoes so I went with a travel agency that specializes in volcano trips.

The fist portion of this trip was Jakarta to the Anak Krakatau back to Jakarta to Yogyakarta in 3 days. That was the easy portion.

I had planned to land in Jakarta a day earlier than the rest of the group to get a good night of sleep before starting. That was a really smart move. As good as Singapore Airlines is, Indonesia is a long way from San Francisco.

The next day (fresh and rested), I met the group at Jakarta airport and we drove to Carita. Our first night was in a reasonably good hotel. On the second day, we took a fisherman boat from Carita to Anak Krakatau, which is in the middle of the strait between Sumatra and Java. It’s a good 2-hour boat ride one way with on a fast boat.

When you arrive to Anak Krakatau, you can clearly see where the caldera of Krakatau was. Kraktau erupted in 1883, destroying its own caldera. In 1927, a new eruption formed the current island: Anak Krakatau (or child of Krakatau).

Anak Krakatau view from the boat

Anak Krakatau view from the boat

The beach and all the island is made of black volcanic rock. I was expecting an island without any vegetation due to the continuous eruption of Anak Krakatau. Instead I found a black sand beach with fully grown palm trees and a complete campground. No doubt, it’s a touristic destination (for some) but we were the only ones in the campground.

The black sand beach on the Anak Krakatau Island

The black sand beach on the Anak Krakatau Island

Anak Krakatau is not that high, currently around 813 meters. It is growing at a rate of 5 inches (13cm) per week. It took us a couple of hours to reach the summit. Our plan was to reach the summit 30min before sunset.

Climbing Anak Krakatau

Climbing Anak Krakatau

The hard part was that the rocks were so hot, you had to keep walking or your shoes would melt (same applies for the camera tripod). To make it a bit harder we had to wear respirators in order to avoid breathing hot sulfuric gas. Climbing with a respirator is tricky, the mask limits the amount of air you can breathe, so you have to regulate your speed and be careful not to get out of breath.

The caldera of the Anak Krakatau. The sulfuric gas are so strong that you can not breathe without a respirator.

The caldera of the Anak Krakatau. The sulfuric gas are so strong that you cannot breathe without a respirator.

Sunset at the top of Anak Krakatau

Sunset at the top of Anak Krakatau

We stayed way past sunset, and we hiked back in complete darkness with only our headlamps. We  started all our climbs to reach the volcano crater at sunrise or sunset, which meant climbing or coming down in the dark. I can tell you, I’ve never done so many hikes in the dark than during those three weeks.

Sulfuric gas and headlamps are required at the top of Anak Krakatau

Sulfuric gas and headlamps are required at the top of Anak Krakatau

We got back to camp around midnight and I woke up 1 hour before sunrise to take more pictures. It was a really short night but that would become the template for this trip. We slept mostly in transit (bus, boat, airplane) and very little otherwise. We left the island around 5am, on our boat ride back, we saw those fishing platforms moored in the bay. I love their design.

Fishing platforms in Indonesia

Fishing platforms in Indonesia

After getting back to shore, we drove back to Jakarta and flew to Yogyakarta, then drove for another two hours to our hotel in Magelang. On day 3, I woke up again before dawn and hiked alone to the Borobudur temple. Borobudur is a 9th century Buddhist temple in Magelang. I won’t explain you the symbolism of the different layers and sculptures because I have already forgotten most of it anyway. Right at sunrise, there was very few visitors, I almost had the place for myself even as Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.

Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta

Borobudur temple in Magelang

It was my first time in a buddhist temple, I loved the architecture, the details, the buddhas and the stuppas (with buddha inside). Little did I realize that 3 months later, I would see hundreds of buddhist temples in Burma.

Budha in Borobudur temple

Buddha in Borobudur temple

Buddha and a volcanoe in the background

Buddha and a volcano in the background

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The top stuppas of Borobudur

The top stuppas of Borobudur

When I travel to a foreign country I always try to eat the local food as much as I can. I’m lucky to have a great stomach and I’m rarely sick while eating different food. I will try to eat any local food at least twice before deciding if I like it or not.

The staple of Indonesian food is rice. We have estimated, by questioning our local guide, that an Indonesian family of 10 eats two bags of rice (50 lb. each) per week. That’s 10 lbs of dry rice per week per person. Needless to say, I had rice everyday for 18 days. The good news is that I love rice and I can eat it everyday, every meal for 18 days no problem.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Lunch

Lunch

Dinner

Dinner

A fantastic breakfast

A fantastic breakfast

Breakfast was composed of local pancakes, fried banana cake, fresh fruit and tea.

Breakfast was composed of local pancakes, fried banana cake, fresh fruit and tea.

I only covered the first three days, I have a lot more images to show. I will probably end up writing more than I think. The part 2, part3 and part4 of this trip are now available.

All the images presented here are available for licensing or as fine art prints.